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Romeo & Juliet - Analysis (Part2) (By: Hussein Ghunaim)

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Romeo & Juliet - Analysis (Part2) (By: Hussein Ghunaim) Empty Romeo & Juliet - Analysis (Part2) (By: Hussein Ghunaim)

Post by Admin Tue Dec 11, 2007 9:49 pm

Part 2

 Romeo and Juliet: Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are immature teenagers–in fact, Juliet is not yet 14– who fall deeply in love even though their families are bitter enemies. Impatient and rash, they seize the moment and marry in secret. But further efforts to conceal their actions go awry and end tragically. In world literature they have become archetypical ill-fated lovers, and countless other literary and artistic works, including the Academy Award-winning film West Side Story, have been based on this Shakespeare drama.
 Montague, Capulet: Heads of feuding families.
 Lady Montague: Wife of Montague.
 Lady Capulet: Wife of Capulet.
 Escalus: Prince of Verona.
 Paris: Young nobleman, kinsman of Escalus. The Capulets pressure Juliet to accept his marriage proposal.
 Nurse of Juliet: The nurse is Juliet's attendant, confidante, and messenger. At Juliet's behest, she meets with Romeo to sound him out on his intentions. Her homely language and her preoccupation with the practical, everyday world contrast sharply with the elevated language of Romeo and Juliet and their preoccupation with the idealistic world of love.
 Old Man: Cousin to Capulet
 Mercutio: Kinsman of the prince and friend of Romeo. He the utter stupidity of the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues and understands that overpowering, passionate love–the kind of love that ignores reason and common sense–can lead to tragedy.
 Benvolio: Nephew of Montague, and friend to Romeo.
 Tybalt: Headstrong nephew of Lady Capulet. Ever ready to fight the Montagues at the slightest provocation, he personifies the hatred generated by feuding families.
 Friar Laurence, Friar John: Franciscan priests (robed Catholic monks who follow the rule of St. Francis of Assisi). Friar Laurence marries Romeo and Juliet, hoping the marriage will end the Montague-Capulet feud, and tries to help them overcome their problems with a scheme that, unfortunately, goes awry. Friar John, a minor character, is charged with carrying a letter to Romeo.
 Balthasar: servant of Romeo.
 Sampson, Gregory: Servants of Capulet.
 Peter: Servant of Juliet's nurse.
 Abraham: Servant of Montague.
 Apothecary: Poverty-stricken with "famine" in his cheeks, he illegally sells Romeo a deadly poison. Thus, he provides an interesting contrast to Romeo in that he breaks a law to stay alive whereas Romeo breaks a law (the moral law against suicide) to die.
 Rosaline: The girl with whom Romeo is infatuated before he meets Juliet. Rosaline does not appear in the play, but is referred to by Romeo, Benvolio, Mercutio, and Friar Laurence.
 First Musician, Second Musician, Third Musician
 Page of Paris
 Another Page
 An Officer
 Chorus: The chorus recites the prologue preceding the first act. The prologue sets the scene, Verona, and tells of the "ancient grudge" between the Montague and Capulet families. It contains two of the play’s most famous lines: “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes / a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.”
 Minor Characters: Citizens of Verona, men and women related to the Capulets and Montagues, maskers (masked guests at a party), guards, watchmen, attendants.

When the play opens, it is nearing mid-morning on a Sunday in July. The main setting is Verona, a city in the Veneto region of northern Italy. The city is about 65 miles west of Venice. The ruler of Verona at the time of the legendary Montague-Capulet feud was Bartolomeo della Scalla, who died in 1304. (In Italian the Scalla name is Scaligeri; in Latin, it is Scaligerus). Part of the action in the play takes place in Mantua, where Romeo goes after the Prince of Verona banishes him. Mantua is in the Lombardy region of Italy, just west of the Veneto region and just south of the Swiss border. The play ends four days later in Verona, shortly after sunrise.

 Theme 1: Romantic love can be beautiful and ennobling. The love between Romeo and Juliet is sublimely beautiful. Not only do they feel deeply for each other, but they also respect each other. Neither attempts to impose his or her will on the other; neither places his or her welfare above the other. Realizing that love and lust are not the same, they prize each other spiritually as well as physically. Therefore, meeting in secret from time to time to gratify their powerful sexual desires without the permanent commitment of marriage is out of the question. Such an arrangement would cheapen their relationship; it would reduce their love to a mere bestial craving. Consequently, at great risk, they decide to sanctify their relationship with a marriage ceremony binding them to eternal love. Theirs is no Hollywood marriage for three months or three years, based on selfish sexual gratification; theirs is a marriage meant for eternity, based on unselfish commitment to the spouse.
 Theme 2: Passion Can Overtake Reason and Common Sense. So powerful is the love between Romeo and Juliet that it subjugates reason and common sense as guiding forces. True, their love has helped them achieve a level of maturity beyond their years, but it has also caused them to take dangerous risks. Their behavior, as well as events over which they have no control, vernalize their relationship, giving it little time to reach full growth. In the end, their overpowering feelings cause them to take their own lives. Likewise, so powerful is the hatred between the Montagues and Capulets that it promotes constant tension and violence, resulting in the deaths of Tybalt and Mercutio–and, of course, the deaths of their own children, Romeo and Juliet.
 Theme 3: Immaturity and inexperience can lead to tragic endings. This theme, related to Theme 2, reaches its full development when callow Romeo and Juliet, believing all is lost, act out of the passion of the moment and commit suicide. If they had had the wisdom to consider that their whole lives lay before them, that other paths lay open to them, they surely would have embraced a fabian tactic to whittle away the opposition.
 Theme 3: Don't judge a person by his name or social standing. Judge him by his personal qualities and merits. As Juliet observes in Act II, Scene II: What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet (47-48).
 Theme 4: Innocent children sometimes pay for the sins of their parents. Romeo and Juliet forfeit their lives partly as a result of their parents' hatred and prejudice.
 Theme 5: Fate acts through human folly. As in Macbeth, King Lear, Julius Caesar, and other plays of Shakespeare, the force of Fate seems all-powerful and ineluctable. It is as if human beings are puppets who have no control over their actions. From the very beginning, Romeo and Juliet are "star-cross'd" as children of "fatal loins" just as Macbeth is doomed by the prediction of the witches, Julius Caesar by the ominous words of a soothsayer, and King Lear, Cordelia, and others around them by "the gods," who, as Gloucester says, "kill us for their sport." But Shakespeare knows that the events leading to tragedy cannot be explained away so simply. Human beings have free will; they have the power to create their futures. Unfortunately, too often they lack the wisdom or moral strength to make the right decisions and, instead, pursue a course of action which seems "fated" for disaster.

Dates, Sources, Type of Work

Date Written: Between 1593 and 1596
First Printing: Corrupt, pirated, unauthorized text, 1597; authorized text (corrected and amended by publisher Thomas Creede), 1599; authoritative text, 1623 as part of the First Folio
Probable Main Source: Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (1562), by Arthur Brooke. Brooke's work, a long narrative poem, was based on a French version (1559) of the tragedy by Pierre Boiastuau, who based his story on a 1554 Italian work by Matteo Bandello (1485-1561), a monk and author of 214 tales. Sources for certain plot devices or plot content probably included Il Novellino (1476), by Masuccio of Salerno; Hystoria Nouellamente Ritrouata di Due Nobili Amanti (1530), by Luigi da Porto; and the ancient mythological tale of Pyramis and Thisbe..
Type of Play: Tragedy
Number of Words in Complete Public-Domain Text: 25,948

The climax of a play or another narrative work, such as a short story or a novel, can be defined as (1) the turning point at which the conflict begins to resolve itself for better or worse, or as (2) the final and most exciting event in a series of events. The climax of Romeo and Juliet, according to the first definition, occurs when Romeo kills Tybalt, causing a turning point that begins with Rome's banishment. According to the second definition, the climax occurs in the final act, when Romeo, Juliet, and Paris die.

Imagery and Style
The play is loaded with verbal fireworks. As one of Shakespeare's early dramas, Romeo and Juliet was a vehicle through which he attempted to startle audiences with his ability to manipulate language, creating puns, rhyming poetry, and striking similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech. The play opens with the chorus reciting a poem in sonnet form, a device also used to open the second act. In the opening dialogue in Act I, Shakespeare freely uses puns and double-entendres to spice his writing, as when the servants Sampson and Gregory make veiled sexual references:
..............GREGORY The quarrel is between our masters and us their men.
..............SAMPSON 'Tis all one, I will show myself a tyrant: when I
.....................have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the
.....................maids, and cut off their heads.
..............GREGORY The heads of the maids?
..............SAMPSON Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads;
.....................take it in what sense thou wilt. (Lines 17-23)
Such language is crude, but it serves a purpose: to contrast with elevated, lyrical imagery used later by Romeo and Juliet to express their love. Mercutio, a brilliant punster and shaper of imagery, uses his way with words to criticize the stupidity of the feuding families and the folly of blind passion. Sometimes, a single passage he speaks contains a gamut of language devices. Note, for example, the following prose passage, spoken when he sees Romeo approaching. It begins with a simile, then follows with alliterations, metaphors, hyperboles, and allusions to Petrarch's sonnets, to Dido (the Carthaginian queen in Vergil's Aeneid), to Cleopatra (queen of Egypt), to Helen of Troy, to Hero (a priestess of the Greek goddess Aphrodite), and to Thisbe, a subject in a mythological tale who kills herself after discovering the dead body of her lover, Pyramis.
..............[There is Romeo] Without his roe, like a dried herring: flesh, flesh,
..............how art thou fishified! Now is he for the numbers
..............that Petrarch flowed in: Laura to his lady was but a
..............kitchen-wench; marry, she had a better love to
..............be-rhyme her; Dido a dowdy; Cleopatra a gipsy;
..............Helen and Hero hildings and harlots; Thisbe a grey
..............eye or so, but not to the purpose. Signior
..............Romeo, bon jour! there's a French salutation
..............to your French slop. You gave us the counterfeit
..............fairly last night.
Perhaps the most memorable imagery in the play centers on figures of speech involving light and darkness. (For examples, see the quoted passages in the plot summary that begin with "O, she doth teach" and "But soft! what light." Of this imagery, Caroline F.E. Spurgeon writes, "In Romeo and Juliet the beauty and ardour of young love is seen by Shakespeare as the irradiating glory of sunlight and starlight in a dark world. The dominating image is light, every form and manifestation of it; the sun, moon, stars, fire, lightning, the flash of gunpowder, and the reflected light of beauty and love; while by contrast we have night, darkness, clouds, rain, mist and smoke.–Quoted in Bender, David, publisher. Readings on the Tragedies of William Shakespeare. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1996 (Page 50).

Shakespeare's Use of Oxymoron and Paradox
Oxymorons and paradoxes abound in the play. In Act III, Scene II, when Juliet criticizes Romeo for killing Tybalt while praising him as her beloved, she manages to squeeze in six oxymorons and four paradoxes:
.......Beautiful tyrant (oxymoron) Line 80
.......Fiend angelical (oxymoron) Line 80
.......Dove-feather'd raven (oxymoron) Line 81
.......Wolvish-ravening lamb (oxymoron) Line 81
.......Damned saint (oxymoron) Line 84
.......Honourable villain (oxymoron) Line 84
.......Despised substance of divinest show (paradox) Line 83
.......Spirit of a fiend in moral paradise of such sweet flesh (paradox) Lines 87-88
.......Book containing such vile matter so fairly bound (paradox) Lines 88-89
.......Deceit should dwell in such a gorgeous palace (paradox) Lines 89-90
Essay Topics
(1) The Capulets have ordered Juliet to marry Paris, a young nobleman. In an expository (informative) essay, explain the marriage customs in Europe in the 16th Century, paying particular attention to arranged marriages. Discuss the customs of the lower classes as well as the upper classes. Include a section on wedding ceremonies and the activities surrounding them.
(2) Imagine that Romeo and Juliet had run off after their marriage–perhaps to France, Greece or Spain–and lived the life of an ordinary married couple. Write an essay that describes them in their late forties, when their hair grays, their waists expand, and their own children fall in love.
(3) Friar Laurence, who sympathizes with Romeo and Juliet and marries them, is a Franciscan priest of the Roman Catholic Church. Write an expository essay about the Franciscans, beginning with their founding by Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), who renounced his comfortable life to wear rags, beg for food, and help the poor.

In the prologue to Act I, an actor called “the chorus” recites a sonnet in which he describes the bitter hatred separating the Montagues and Capulets and identifies Romeo and Juliet as lovers who had the misfortune to be born into warring families: “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes [the Montagues and the Capulets] / A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life" (Lines 5-6). Take their life appears to have a double-meaning: first, that they come into existence; second, in a foreshadowing of events to come, that they go out of existence by taking their own lives.

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Romeo & Juliet - Analysis (Part2) (By: Hussein Ghunaim) Graduation


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